Legal costs halt plans for Chief's 'Next Dance'

CHAMPAIGN – A Chief Illiniwek performance planned for homecoming weekend has been postponed indefinitely after the University of Illinois threatened legal sanction.

Roger Huddleston of Mahomet, the co-founder of the Honor the Chief Society, said his group doesn't have the money to wage a legal battle with the UI over the Chief Illiniwek trademark.

Just last week, Huddleston said "The Next Dance" would go on despite the cease-and-desist letter.

"It's a darn shame," Huddleston said Thursday. "I feel particularly bad for the young people. I can't jeopardize them. And we just don't have the money to fight this. We're not conceding that the cease-and-desist order is valid, but we have to look at it."

He said the Students for Chief Illiniwek, which was to be the sponsor of the Chief's dance performance at the Assembly Hall, could be affected because the Honor the Chief Society is a financial backer.

Urbana campus spokeswoman Robin Kaler had little reaction to the news.

"It's really the student group's decision. As long as they meet the criteria to use a university facility, and I believe they have, they can go on," she said.

Samantha Uher, a UI junior and president of Students for Chief Illiniwek, told The News-Gazette on Thursday afternoon: "I'm still in shock."

"We've been looking forward to it; they're just taking another step. Last year they tried to take us down administratively, this year with legal power, and we just don't have the means to fight it," Uher added.

Uher said there was a chance the dance could be held at a later date.

The Oct. 1 letter from Chicago lawyer Andrew L. Goldstein, demands that the Honor the Chief Society:

"Withdraw trademark application Serial No. 77/136902; remove the reference to the Chief Illiniwek name in connection with the posters and pin offered on the society's web site; cease and desist from sale of the pin bearing the Illini trademark; and remove the references on the society's web site to performances or appearances by Chief Illiniwek and cease and desist from any similar statements."

The letter also asks the society to "provide us with written assurances that the society will not use, and will cease any use of, the Chief Illiniwek name or other trademarks of the University of Illinois on its web site."

"Even though we've got a permit from them for the dance, we can't afford the risk," Huddleston said.

The third annual "Next Dance" was scheduled for UI homecoming weekend, Oct. 23, starting at 6 p.m. at the Assembly Hall, following the Illini football game against Indiana.

Ivan Dozier of Ivesdale, a UI sophomore, was to perform the Chief's dance, after winning an auditions held last spring by Students for Chief Illiniwek.

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Lostinspace wrote on October 14, 2010 at 5:10 pm

Does the University have the money to waste on this?

John O'Connor wrote on October 14, 2010 at 5:10 pm

Huddleston and the group are forcing them to do this because if the university didn't defend the trademark for the mascot, then it would enter the public domain and anyone could use it.

spangwurfelt wrote on October 14, 2010 at 5:10 pm

Exactly right. Just because you've got something trademarked doesn't mean it can't be taken away from you legally if it's contested, and one strong ground for contesting trademark ownership is that the owner no longer uses or defends the trademark ownership. That's why the UI has to clear its throat every now and then and say, you know, boys, it's ours, not yours. Which is what it's doing now.

Zombie Mascot Can't Dance.

Cassie wrote on October 14, 2010 at 5:10 pm

FINALLY, the university is stepping up to it's responsibility. I'm a little bit prouder of my alma mater today.

capt80 wrote on October 15, 2010 at 8:10 am

MY alma mater SUCKS a little bit more today!

Cassie wrote on October 15, 2010 at 11:10 am

Feel free to remove it from your resume at any time!

Sheldon Illini wrote on October 14, 2010 at 8:10 pm

Thanks to Roger Huddleston and Samantha Uher for leading these organizations to support the Chief. I'll be taking action tomorrow by mailing a check to Roger to support "Honor the Chief" and making other Alumni aware of "Honor the Chief" this weekend. If I were a currrent student, I would be organizing a protest march to show opposition to the legal intimidation. It is so unfortunate that the University of Illinois and its leaders have decided to perpetuate conflict, alienate thousands of Alumni, and forgo millions in annual donations. How is it that Florida State University resloved a similar situation without creating the conflict, Alumni alienation, and losing millions in donations that all students could use.
The most important education I received at the U of I Urbana Campus was extensive training on dealing with adversity. So we're well prepared to deal with these actions. By the way, I wont be sending any checks in response to the multiple University solicitations for money. Good luck with the budget deficit. Yours Truly, Fighting Illini Alumnus

John O'Connor wrote on October 14, 2010 at 9:10 pm

What's unfortunate is that some people can't let the mascot, a relic of the past, go. Can you document your claim that the university is losing 'millions in annual donations' because the 'chief' was finally retired? And if you would withhold donations because of a mascot, then you obviously never felt any real attachment to the university and it's mission of educating tens of thousands of students every year.

karlyn1219 wrote on October 15, 2010 at 8:10 am

What is sad is that a bunch of people with nothing better to do then protest a respectful icon in the history of not only the univeristy, but the state of Illinois finally won this battle. What it all boiled down to was money. The sad fact is that there is no longer an Illini tribe to bribe the way the Seminole traibe has been. If FSU had not paid off hte seminoles then they too would have lost the right to use the mascot.

Also the Chief was not a mascot, he was a symbol of the university, which was created to honr the Native American ancestors that once occupied the land. Over the years there was a direct connection with the ancestors that remained, and they day in and day out approved of the manner in that the University protrayed Chief Illiniwek. If they disapproved, then why did they not once ask for the ceremony at halfime to cease? It was not until the NCAA came forward and said no offensive mascots, unless you can pay them off, can exist.

Chalk another one up for the ultra-progressive crowd that will cowtow tot he wishes of a few to spurn many, but that is another topic for another day.

John O'Connor wrote on October 15, 2010 at 8:10 am

Wait, is it just 'a bunch of people with nothing better to do then protest a [fake chief mascot]' or is it the 'state of Illinois'? And you're just wrong on the facts -- people objected to the fake 'chief' mascot long before the NCAA threatened sanctions for the offensive mascot. If you really believe the the overwhelming majority supports the fake 'chief' mascot, then try to get a law passed requiring the university to readopt the fake 'chief' mascot.